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Gorbachev sees US missile plan in Europe targeting Russia, hopes US won't attack Iran

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Wednesday that he viewed a US plan to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe as targeting Russia, not Iran.

Milos Zeman, the former Czech prime minister, said, “What kind of Iran threat do you see? This is a system that is being created against Russia,” Gorbachev said. „I don't think Zeman is alone in seeing this. We see this as well as he sees it. The United States wants to place a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, saying the components would defend European allies against a possible Iranian strike.

Gorbachev, 76, whose policies of glasnost and perestroika - openness and restructuring - helped end communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites, criticized the high level of military spending by the United States. „Does America intend to fight the rest of the world, does America need to build a new empire? They will not succeed,” Gorbachev said at the close of a meeting of the World Political Forum, a group he founded in 2003 that includes many former high-ranking politicians.

Gorbachev, who won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, said negotiations with Iran needed to continue with the involvement of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, to ensure Iran did not produce nuclear weapons. Gorbachev said he hoped the United States would not attack Iran during the remainder of the term of US President George W. Bush. „There still one year that President Bush has on his hands.

Let's hope that he will not take the risk ... of military action against Iran,” Gorbachev said, adding that such an attack „at the very least” could provoke increased terrorist attacks, an energy crisis and „even result in a big war. Asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gorbachev said that, while he initially had doubts about Putin being able to lead Russia, he now supported him.

„Putin is a very capable person, a wise person, a man of strong character, of few words but with good management skills,” Gorbachev said. „Now he is more than just a manager, he has become a credible political leader. Gorbachev added that he supported the Russian president because Putin's policies were consistent with his own social-democratic positions „Putin is pursuing policies that benefit the majority of the Russian people,” Gorbachev said. (press release, pr-inside)